Russia's Lavrov Calls for US-Iran De-escalation
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Moscow, Jan 17 (AFP) Russia's acting Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Friday urged Iran and the United States to wind down tensions after Iranian forces accidentally downed a Ukrainian passenger jet.

Lavrov said the tragedy was a "very serious red flag" and a signal that everyone should "start working on de-escalation and not on constant threats".

"An increase in tensions between Iran and the United States will not help settle any single crisis in the region, if only because the tensions will be increasing," he said.

Iran and the US seemed to be on the brink of conflict earlier in January after an American drone strike killed a top Iranian general in Baghdad.

This prompted retaliatory Iranian missile strikes against Iraqi bases housing US troops.

Iran then accidentally downed a Ukrainian airliner while on high alert. The tragedy killed 176 people, mostly Iranians and Canadians.

Tehran admitted the disaster was caused by human error several days later.

Lavrov said he did not want to "find excuses for anyone" but criticised Washington for killing Major General Qasem Soleimani, the head of the foreign operations arm of Iran's Revolutionary Guards.

He said Iran was waiting for a US strike and said there was "nervousness in such situations".

"There is information that... after this attack, the Iranians were waiting for another strike from the US, they didn't know in what form, but there were a minimum of six F-35 (fighter jets) in the air... in the airspace right on the border of Iran."

He said the "unprecedented" US operation that killed Soleimani "undermined and put into question all imaginable norms of international law". (AFP)

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